Youth Justice

New York allows judges to replace a criminal conviction with a noncriminal outcome for young people under the age of 19 in certain criminal cases by granting “Youthful Offender” (YO) status. YO status protects young people from the devastating and racially disparate consequences of a criminal record, which can impede their ability to find a job, pursue education, or secure stable housing. YO allows for shorter sentences that include services in the community like substance abuse and mental health treatment. However, tens of thousands of young people can not access YO protections.

BDS supports the expansion of YO eligibility to all youth under the age of 19 and guaranteed protection in certain cases. BDS also supports the creation of a new “Young Adult” (YA) status that would give judges the discretion to replace a criminal conviction with a non-criminal adjudication for young people from age 19-25, in line with widely accepted neuroscience research that shows young people’s brain development affects decision-making and continues into the mid-twenties.

Resources

Fact Sheet

Youth Justice and Opportunities Act Fact Sheet

Testimony

BDS Testimony before New York State Assembly on Expansion of Youthful Offender Status

Article

The Imprint Article: Next Steps for Youth Justice Reforms in New York: 18- to 25-Year-Olds

An illustration of community members hosting a protest behind a young community member holding a sign that says: Justice.

Pass the Youth Justice and Opportunities Act

With the enactment of the Youth Justice and Opportunities Act, New York has the chance to lead the nation by expanding its laws to protect the futures of young people under the age of 26.